Frank Zappa: Orchestral Favorites, Joe's Garage Act I

By Ken Williams

Rip It Up, December 1979

Frank Zappa
Orchestral Favorites
Joe's Garage Act I

Reprise Zappa/CBS

Frank Zappa’s work is dominated by his personal pre-occupations and obsessions. At his most vapid, Zappa seems merely pre-occupied – the bodily function as riff.

Happily, Joe's Garage is Zappa at peak efficiency, drawing together with enviable economy the strains that have run through previous albums – political paranoia, garage bands, various sexual activities, wet T-shirt contests, social diseases, more sexual activities, rock groups on the road, etc etc.

The libretto to Joe's Garage is an hilarious document (for those not easily offended), with the Central Scrutinizer, a raspy-voiced, mechanical enforcer of the laws which haven’t yet been passed being an especially engaging creation.

Zappa describes Joe’s Garage as "a stupid story about how the government is going to try to do away with music (a prime cause of unwanted mass behaviour). It’s sort of like a really cheap kind of high school play." Cheapness is another Zappa pre-occupation.

Joe’s Garage has a concentrated unity of thought rare among Zappa's often fluctuating work, and musically it is as good as he gets (check his stunning parody of a certain Famous Rock Group, represented by Frank as Toad-O).

Acts II and III are reportedly on their way. Is this The Great Work in progress? Or is this Cheapness? Time will tell.

Orchestral Favorites is for the diehard who must have everything associated with Zappa. The album is large group explorations of standard Zappa instrumental themes, culled from tapes left with Warners when Zappa left the company, and released against his wishes.